Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Tulsa Teen Savagely Attacked at House Party

Cody Rogers, 18, after his hate crime beating this weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Tulsa, Oklahoma – A gay 18-year-old gay man, stepping in to keep a girl from being beaten by homophobes this weekend, was pinned down and beaten unconscious at a South Tulsa house party.  Cody Rogers, who had come out only 18 months ago, was told that the hands of the Tulsa Police Department “are tied” when it comes to hate crimes against gay people, since Oklahoma does not protect LGBTQ people from violence in its law code. Rogers’ attackers have been charged with simple assault, according to Fox News 23.  His friend, Jordan Garrett, said, “I believe 100 per cent this was a hate crime.”  Garrett went on to say, “They were just so angry just over someone’s sexual orientation that they would do something like this. (Cody) looked as if a truck hit him.”  The Fox news story on the bashing drew so many violent and abusive remarks online, the website has blocked all comments.

His assailants objected to gays being invited to the party by the host, and flew into a violent rage at one of the gay men’s female friends, yelling “Where are the f**king faggots?”  Continuing to yell epithets against gay people, one of the angry men began to assault Rogers’ 21-year-old girl friend, causing Rogers to intervene.  Rogers says that when he pulled the man off of the young woman, the man’s friends joined him in knocking Rogers down, stomping and beating him until he became unconscious.

As the Dallas Voice reports, Oklahoma is one of 19 states that refuse so far to include sexual orientation as a protected class.  In states where hate crimes legislation is on the books, what happened to Rogers would probably be charged and prosecuted as a felony.  The Unfinished Lives Project first got word of this hate crime through Facebook posts.  Rogers and his friends have now put up pictures of his ravaged face and chest on a Facebook page, Help Stop the Stomping, designed to spark change in Tulsa. Rogers courageously told Fox 23, “I am not ashamed as to what happened. I am proud to stand here and show the bruises.”  As his story goes viral around the web, Cody is mending physically and emotionally at home.

Toby Jenkins of Oklahomans for Equality says that attacks of this severity are unusual in Tulsa, but the law must be changed to protect LGBTQ people so that something like this will never occur again. The state, he said, is “behind the times.” 

February 29, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Oklahoma, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Celebrate Lesbian Pioneer, Phyllis Lyon!

Phyllis Lyon, hero of the LGBTQ Civil Rights Movement

Today is Phyllis Lyon’s 87th birthday, and we at the Unfinished Lives Project pause to celebrate her life and work as a pioneer of the LGBTQ Civil Rights Movement.  Born November 10, 1924 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Phyllis earned a journalism degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She, along with her spouse, Del Martin, founded the Daughters of Bilitis in San Francisco in 1955, the first lesbian social and political organization in the world, along with a handful of other courageous lesbians.  In 1956, Phyllis became the first Editor of the landmark lesbian paper, “The Ladder,” from 1956 until 1960 when Del took over from her.  In 1964, she and Del co-founded the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, bringing religious leaders together for the first time to address the roles of queer women and men in communities of faith, and to encourage faith groups to accept LGBTQ people.  She and Del were active in the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, and were the first lesbian couple to join the National Organization for Women (NOW). In the 1960s and ’70s, they used their influence to de-criminalize lesbian and gay behavior.  In 1995, the couple were prominently active in the White House Council on the Aging.

Coming out in the 1950s was tricky and dangerous.  Originally, Phyllis used the pseudonym “Ann Ferguson” in her writing and editorial work, but dropped it to come out openly and fully as an encouragement to all LGBTQ people to speak the truth as who we are.  Interviewed by young queer journalists during the 2009 National Equality March in Washington, D.C., Phyllis reflected on the courage it took to live openly as a lesbian or gay man in the Eisenhower Era. She told her teen interviewers for The Advocate“The time was not the time when you could wear a sign that said, ‘Hi, I’m a lesbian, be friendly with me!'” 

Phyllis and Del met in Seattle in 1950, and became lovers in 1952. In 1953, they moved to San Francisco. In February 2004, they were issued a Marriage License by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome, and were married–only to have their marriage dissolved by the California Supreme Court that same year.  Not to be denied, Phyllis and Del were the first couple to be legally married in San Francisco City Hall on June 16, 2008 once the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in the Golden State–in fact the only couple married that day by the mayor. Del passed away later that year.

“We’ve come a long way from our goal in the 1950s, part of which was to get laws against sexual activity between consenting adults of the same sex wiped off the books,” Phyllis told the Noe Valley Voice in February 2003. “The other part was to be considered part of society. We wanted our full rights and responsibilities.” She and Del succeeded, on our behalf.  The contribution they made to the full recognition and protection of LGBTQ people in America is beyond calculation.  So, we at the Unfinished Lives Project salute Phyllis Lyon today as a sign of hope and a hero of our work.  Happy Birthday, Phyllis!

November 10, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Bisexual persons, California, Daughters of Bilitis, gay men, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Oklahoma, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Washington State, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Courageous Mother & Pioneer Anti-Hate Crime Activist Dies

Carolyn Wagner (1953-2011), Human Rights Champion

Tulsa, Oklahoma – Pioneer activist, Carolyn Wagner, co-founder of Families United Against Hate (FUAH), passed away January 18 after a protracted battle with cancer, liver failure, and hepatitis. Widely admired for her courageous work on behalf of LGBTQ civil rights, Wagner became involved in the human rights struggle in 1996 when her son William, 16,  was brutally harassed and attacked by homophobic students while attending school in northwest Arkansas. Young William survived, but compelled by a need for justice, Carolyn and Bill Wagner waged a successful legal campaign against the Fayetteville, AR school district under Title IX.  The United States Office for Civil Rights ruled against the school district thanks to a complaint lodged by the Wagners on behalf of their son–the first time in U.S. history that Title IX was used to address anti-gay harassment and the bullying of gay and lesbian students, according to the ACLU.  Because of her experience as the parent of a gay-bashed son, Carolyn joined forces with Gabi Clayton to found FUAH so other parents in similar situations could benefit from what she had learned. In 1999, Bill Wagner with Carolyn at his side, became a plaintiff in the history case, Howard v. Child Welfare Agency Review Board, argued by the ACLU to challenge the Arkansas Department of Human Services regulation that foster children could not be housed where adult gays and lesbians reside. Wagner qualified as a plaintiff since their son William, by then an adult, sometimes came home to stay with his parents. After learning about the plight of youth, straight and gay, who were abused because of the perception that they were gay, Carolyn and Bill Wagner took in scores of children through the years as foster parents. In August 2006, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the ban against gay and lesbian foster parents thanks to the litigation initiated by the Wagners and others. But the victory was not without cost for Carolyn, according to a tribute by the ACLU. In the same year as the ruling that struck down discrimination against gay and lesbian foster parents, Carolyn was brutally assaulted on her own property by a man posing as a police officer, who told her he did not like “queer-loving ACLU types.” Though shaken by the beating, she continued working tirelessly for LGBTQ human rights until the end of her life.  FUAH issued this statement: “On January 18, 2011 the world lost a civil rights pioneer and strong voice for equality. Carolyn Wagner fought every day to create a world where equality would become a reality for all, no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity, race or life circumstances. Her path in life was difficult but she never wavered in her dedication and love for the many communities she advocated so powerfully for until she took her last breath. Nothing could ever stop her from fighting for her family, her friends and her community. Plenty of people tried to stop her, but never with any success. Carolyn’s heart, mind and arms were always open and we will miss her powerful embrace, we know her legacy will never die as long as we carry the spirit of her love within us, and take action with as much courage, humor, and wisdom as she did. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband and children and the hundreds and thousands of people whose lives she touched. She will always be with us.” Carolyn is survived by her husband Bill, a her daughter, and two granddaughters. To hundreds of thousands, she was a champion of their rights, a compassionate, strong, and determined advocate for justice. But it is well to remember that Carolyn Wagner was first and foremost a wife and mother who acted to right a wrong that initially struck her own family, and then opened her eyes to the plight of countless others like her boy. As Bill Wagner said: “Carolyn will be remembered as an activist and civil rights hero to many, but for me she was simply the love of my life, my best friend and an amazing mother to our children. I will miss her beautiful smile, her raucous and infectious laugh and most of all her loving heart.”  Her memorial service was held in Tulsa on January 22 at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center. Rest in Peace, Carolyn. We will miss you.

January 31, 2011 Posted by | ACLU, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, Carolyn Wagner, Condolences, Families United Against Hate (FUAH), funerals, gay and lesbian foster parents, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Mistaken as LGBT, Oklahoma, Parenting equality, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Courageous Mother & Pioneer Anti-Hate Crime Activist Dies

Gay College Student Beaten by Homophobes, Ignored by Oklahoma Police

Claremore, OK – A 24-year-old gay college student was beaten late last month by three men screaming anti-gay slurs as he took out the trash at his apartment complex.  Phillip Nelson, an out and open gay man, was jumped and thrashed in the quiet town of Claremore, approximately a half hour drive north of Tulsa.  Investigators have basically blown off the incident, leaving Nelson emotionally wounded in addition to his physical injuries (see photo at left). EDGE reports that Nelson is struggling to cope with the combination of brutal attack and police indifference to a hate crime against him.  “I keep calling them and leaving voice mails but I never hear anything back,” Nelson said during an EDGE interview. “No one ever returns my calls, which has me wondering if they’re kind of trying to let this thing die out and go away, or if they are going to do anything about it.” Media coverage outside the gay blogosphere has been sparce.  Besides the EDGE report, which according to Michael Lavers grew from a tip given by one of their readers, only one other story has appeared in the news media.  Oklahoma lawmakers aver that laws protecting LGBT people are not needed in their state, and in a notorious move by State Senator Steve Russell, legislation has been introduced to circumvent the James Bryd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by President Obama in October 2009.  The Oklahoma House of Representatives has not yet voted on the bill, which passed the State Senate last month.  Nelson’s case is a clear reason why protection statutes for LGBT Oklahomans is urgently needed.  Nelson’s three attackers who remain unapprehended by local police as of this writing, assaulted him while screaming “You are going to die!” and “Faggot!” leaving him with multiple bruises and cuts on his face and over his body.  Days later, his antagonists broke into Nelson’s apartment and scrawled “Fag” on the walls. Though Nelson reported the beating to Claremore police, no police report of the attack was filed until Nelson called in law enforcement for the break-in.  Then, in what may have been an attempt to cover their tracks, the police insisted that Nelson file separate reports on both crimes.  The whole ordeal has shaken Nelson, but as he told EDGE, he has had to face homophobia all his young life. “I’ve been called names all my life, even by my family members; and after a while I learned to get numb from it,” he said. “I just got numb from a lot of things. I’m happy with myself and that’s all that matters.” LGBT Oklahomans grow tough in the Sooner State.  They have to.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, death threats, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, home-invasion, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, Oklahoma, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Slurs and epithets, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bill Obstructing Federal Protections for LGBT Oklahomans Passes OK Senate

OK State Senator Steve Russell (R-OK City)

Oklahoma City, OK – A controversial bill limiting what law enforcement may do to investigate and prosecute hate crimes against LGBT residents of Oklahoma passed the State Senate this Thursday.  The bill, SB 1965, passed the upper house 39 – 6, and now goes on to the Oklahoma State House of Representatives.  According to the OUDaily, SB 1965 would prohibit local and state law enforcement agencies from sharing information about hate crimes with federal authorities if the state of Oklahoma did not recognize the crime as a hate crime by its own statutes, thereby effectively opting out of federal protections for LGBT persons in the Sooner State.  John Wright of the Dallas Voice writes that the originator of the legislation, State Senator Steve Russell (R-Oklahoma City) proposed the bill because he contends that the James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, passed by both houses of Congress last year and signed into law by President Obama, oversteps the bounds of what the federal government may do and abrogates freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  Russell, who equates sexual orientation with necrophilia, said to the press that he was concerned that a religious leader could be blamed for inciting violence against LGBT people and charged with a hate crime under the provisions of the Shepard Act.  The attachment of the Shepard Act to a Defense Appropriations Bill also upset Russell, who once served as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army.  The Oklahoma LGBT community was swift to condemn the passage of the State Senate Bill, and drew attention to the dire consequences of the enactment of the provisions of the bill into law.  The Equality Network (TEN) issued a statement Thursday from President Kathy L. Williams: “Senator Russell’s bill is truly terrifying in its implications. This legislation sends the message that violence against LGBT Oklahomans is acceptable. It also sets a chilling precedent that Oklahoma will only enforce certain federal laws and cooperate only with selected federal agencies. We believe this unconstitutional and blatantly discriminatory bill will harm all Oklahomans, regardless of their identity and regardless of whether they are victims of hate crimes.” The Metro Star reports that the only thing standing in the way of this legislation becoming law will be refusal in the House or a veto by Governor Brad Henry.  The State House of 101 representatives is controlled by the Republican Party, 61 to 40.  Governor Henry is a Democrat.


March 13, 2010 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Matthew Shepard Act, Oklahoma, Politics, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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